By Edward Carbutt, Executive Director at Marval South Africa
Information Technology (IT) has become intrinsic to the day-to-day operations of modern businesses, and enterprises in the healthcare sector are no exception. If IT is not managed adequately and IT services are not assured, the impact is not felt by the business alone, but its customers as well. However, whereas in the business world the consequence of poor IT management equals lower profits, ineffective services and unsatisfied customers, the implications in healthcare are far more severe. Ineffective service in healthcare can impact negatively on the health of not only the organisation but also the health of patients. When it comes to the healthcare sector, the effective management of its Information Technology, clinical systems and service infrastructure really can be a matter of life or death.
Healthcare enterprises, including hospitals, clinics and doctor’s rooms generate volumes of information that must be stored and managed. Included in this is critical and confidential patient data, which also needs to be stored and managed, and on top of this needs to be managed in such a way as to ensure that it cannot be compromised and is secure. The sheer scope of data capture, storage and management required in the healthcare sector is enormous, and high levels of availability are critical because of the risks to patients in the event of downtime. However, these functions are often managed by undersized IT departments and expected to operate a vastly complex infrastructures on shoestring budgets.
Compounding this problem is the fact that medical equipment has converged with IT technologies, and adopting new healthcare technologies adds further pressure to already strained resources. New technologies and clinical systems rely on a stable underpinning IT infrastructure to mitigate risk and provide the best patient care possible.
Healthcare is more dependent on Intellectual Property (IP) than ever before, as IT underpins the service these facilities provide to patients. The challenge for IT departments in healthcare is to adopt and integrate the latest technology and ensure maximum availability and reliability, ultimately the goal of the IT and clinical infrastructure is to enable the organisation to do things faster, better and cheaper.
However, while patient care should obviously be a number one priority, running an effective healthcare organisation is also about demonstrating value along with governance and compliance to regulatory requirements.
When you consider this, as well as the impact that technology has on a healthcare facility such as a hospital, the need for IT Service Management (ITSM) within healthcare becomes immediately apparent. ITSM and the adoption of industry best practices and international standards such as ITIL and ISO/IEC20000 are intrinsically linked to the overall performance of any organisation that depends on IT. This is imperative in assisting healthcare organisations to deliver effective IT services and improved patient care.
ITSM also has several other benefits, including the ability to deliver consistent services in a manner that is both accountable and auditable. This in turn allows for benchmarking against peer organisations or competitors to compare performance, which can help create a culture of continual service improvement. By centralising IT functions and services underpinned by ITIL and ISO/IEC 20000, IT is able to demonstrate its contribution and value to the organisation, its stakeholders and customers.
Healthcare needs an integrated process driven service management toolset which supports best practice and standards, regulatory compliance and governance requirements. This ensures a consistent approach that delivers reliable levels of service, with optimised costs and more intelligent use of expensive resources.
However, it is vital to look at the big picture and make certain that any ITSM tool and implementation supports best practices and international standards such as ITIL and ISO/IEC 20000. This ensures that the solution not only supports current requirements, but is able to incorporate changes in the future, and drive value within the organisation. Adopting ISO/IEC 20000 ensures that the right controls and delivery mechanisms are in place, and that processes and procedures can be externally audited to meet the required governance, controls and evidence.
The reality is that healthcare organisations will benefit from effective, stable and reliable IT services. The need for ITSM in healthcare goes deeper than ensuring value for money and efficiencies, as effective IT service in healthcare can actually save lives. When patient care is the ultimate priority, and IT underpins this, ITSM becomes a vital tool in ensuring the health of both the healthcare sector and the patients it serves.